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Our fingers are ten little body parts with great importance. The thumb tells your kid ‟good job” from across the room; the second finger is for pointing; the middle finger expresses your anger; the fourth finger carries your wedding ring; and the pinky finger helps you swear to be there for a friend. Now, don’t you think they are important enough to learn their Hebrew names?
The Hebrew word for finger is אֶצְבַּע.
יֵשׁ לׅי עֶשֶׂר אֶצְבָּעוֺת
I have ten fingers
לָאֶצְבַּע הֲכׅי קְטַנָּה קוֺרְאׅים זֶרֶת
The smallest finger is called pinky
We crossed our fingers
אֶצְבַּע is also the short name of the index finger. The index finger full name is הָאֶצְבַּע הַמּוֹרָה (literally means the index finger), but we usually omit the predicate in this clause, and use only the short name – אֶצְבַּע (finger). It’s seems a bit confusing, but actually it’s easier to remember: the name of this אֶצְבַּע is אֶצְבַּע.
The אֶצְבַּע that carries our wedding ring is קְמִיצָה (the ring finger). During the Jewish wedding ceremony, the bride hands over her right hand. The groom put the wedding ring on her אֶצְבַּע הַמּוֹרָה to symbolize their bond. When the ceremony ends, the bride removes the ring to her left קְמִיצָה for the rest of her life.
Between הָאֶצְבַּע הַמּוֹרָה and the קְמִיצָה is the middle finger. The middle finger is the longest finger in the human body, and in Hebrew it is called אַמָּה (the middle finger).
The biggest אֶצְבַּע has two names in Hebrew: בּוֹהֶן and אֲגוּדָל. בּוֹהֶן is the biblical word for thumb. For example:
”וְעַל בֹּוהֶן יָדָם הַיְמָנִית וְעַל בֹּוהֶן רַגְלָם הַיְמָנִית‟
‟On the thumb of their right hand and the big toe of their right foot”
[Exodus, chapter 29, verse 20]
”וַיִּרְדְּפוּ אַחֲרָיו וַיֹּאחֲזוּ אוֹתוֹ וַיְקַצְּצוּ אֶת בְּהֹונוֹת יָדָיו וְרַגְלָיו‟
‟They chased him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes”
[Judges, chapter 1, verse 6]
Although the English translation of the bible distinguishes between the hand thumb and the foot big toe; the Hebrew origin refers to both as בּוֹהֶן. In the Hebrew dictionary בּוֹהֶן defined as:
הָאֶצְבַּע הֶעָבָה בַּיָּד אוֹ בָּרֶגֶל
The thick finger of the hand or the feet
אֲגוּדָל is the Talmudic word for thumb. It originated in a later period than בּוֹהֶן, but it means exactly the same. As it shows in idiom like:
עָקֵב בְּצַד אֲגוּדָל
One foot in front of the other (literally translated to heel next to big toe); which means to walk slowly; to do something slowly and punctiliously.
Although there is no difference between בּוֹהֶן and אֲגוּדָל in the Jewish texts, spoken Hebrew does use the two antonyms to discern between the palm’s thumb and the feet’s big toe. אֲגוּדָל הַיָּד (hand’s thumb) and בּוֹהֶן הָרֶגֶל (foot’s big toe) are in common use in the fields of biology and anatomy.
While אֲגוּדָל derived from the root ג-ד-ל (g-d-l, means big), זֶרֶת is probably derived from the root ז-ע-ר (z-a-r, means small). Because זֶרֶת is the Hebrew word for pinky.
זֶרֶת הׅיא הָאֶצְבַּע הַקְּטַנָּה
Pinky is the baby finger
In summary, remember the verse from the Talmud, naming the fingers from the smallest to the biggest:
זוֹ זֶרֶת, זוֹ קְמׅיצָה, זוֹ אַמָּה, זוֹ אֶצְבַּע, זוֹ אֲגוּדָל
This is baby finger, this is ring finger, this is middle finger, this is index finger, this is thumb
The foot fingers weren’t honored enough in the Hebrew language to receive names, except for the big toe, so we left with only six Hebrew fingers names to learn. Use this nursery to practice the names and their pronunciation: